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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > NanotechnologyKTN > NanoKTN Hosts Its First EcoNano event ‘Nanotechnology for Water'

Fiona Brewer
NanoKTN

Abstract:
Environmental issues are rarely out of the news headlines and the challenges posed by provision of potable water, treatment of industrial and domestic waste water and materials sustainability are predicted to escalate. Water treatment encompasses a range of engineering and technological processes and is of high importance worldwide with population growth, sources drying up and contaminants becoming an increasing problem. Water is also a vital part of many industrial processes for producing chemicals and consumer products such as food and drink. Nanotechnology provides a new approach to solving challenges within these markets.

Earlier this year the NanoKTN launched its ‘EcoNano' focus group to address environmental challenges such as remediation of water, air, and materials sustainability. Technology transfer has a key role in taking new technologies such as nanotechnology into the marketplace and developing commercial traction, and the EcoNano group will focus on nanotechnology awareness - not just for the ‘technology providers' but crucially the whole supply chain.

May 20th, 2011

NanoKTN Hosts Its First EcoNano event ‘Nanotechnology for Water'

Environmental issues are rarely out of the news headlines and the challenges posed by provision of potable water, treatment of industrial and domestic waste water and materials sustainability are predicted to escalate. Water treatment encompasses a range of engineering and technological processes and is of high importance worldwide with population growth, sources drying up and contaminants becoming an increasing problem. Water is also a vital part of many industrial processes for producing chemicals and consumer products such as food and drink. Nanotechnology provides a new approach to solving challenges within these markets.

Earlier this year the NanoKTN launched its ‘EcoNano' focus group to address environmental challenges such as remediation of water, air, and materials sustainability. Technology transfer has a key role in taking new technologies such as nanotechnology into the marketplace and developing commercial traction, and the EcoNano group will focus on nanotechnology awareness - not just for the ‘technology providers' but crucially the whole supply chain.

"Raising awareness of new developments to potential end-users is vital to adoption, and interaction of different members of the supply chain can lead to surprising and often cross-disciplinary collaborations. The group will focus on how nanotechnology can help to meet many of the current environmental challenges including pollution control and land and water remediation," explains Martin Kemp, Theme Manager at the NanoKTN.

On 15th February 2011, the NanoKTN hosted its first EcoNano event, partnered with the Environmental Sustainability KTN and University College London (UCL). The event, titled ‘Nanotechnology for Water' explored ways in which nanotechnology can provide solutions to water treatment and purification including filtration, desalination and sensing. By hosting the event, the NanoKTN aimed to provide a better understanding of the issues faced by water utilities and end-user industries and to explore the new approaches that nanotechnology can bring to solving problems or developing new products in the water sector.

The workshop brought together over 70 delegates from the water industry, user industries, environmental industries and the research community to hear presentations from leading organisations such as Water UK, Anglian Water, British Water's Innovation Forum, Promethean Particles, proaqua, IWA and the Universities of Aberdeen, Brighton, Bristol and Cranfield.


"Nanotechnology - A Water Industry Solution?"
Steve Kaye, Innovations Manager, Anglian Water
Steve Kaye gave an overview of the water industry needs and challenges and outlined key areas where nanotechnology might provide a solution, such as sensors and monitoring, water treatment - removal of pesticides, nitrates, iron and manganese, and also mentioned the potential issues of using nanotechnology.

"Introducing International Water Association (IWA) Nano and Water Specialist Group"
Dr Blanca Antizar-Ladislao, IWA
Dr Antizar-Ladislao introduced the International Water Association which has 10,000 members worldwide. Her presentation flagged up the seven challenges facing the water industry and described the IWA Specialist Groups, one of which is the IWA SG on Nano and Water.

"Formulating Solutions with Nanomaterials"
Pete Gooden, Promethean Particles
Promethean Particles is a spin-out company from the University of Nottingham that has developed the unique reactor technology to allow unprecedented flexibility and product control in inorganic nanoparticle manufacture. Promethean's product control not only covers the wide range of product compositions open to this technique, but also includes control of particle size, size distribution, morphology and product formulation, while maintaining excellent product quality. In this presentation, some preliminary application data was presented highlighting the potential for using immobilised nano-TiO2 for water treatment, in particular the breakdown of pesticides in water systems.


"Nanotechnology for Water Purification"
Prof Donald Macphee, University of Aberdeen
This presentation introduced an electrochemical cell, configured as a fuel cell, in which the anode is a semiconductor photocatalyst. Details of cell structure and performance were presented, including the principles on which the catalyst functions, what sustains its activity and other factors which are expected to limit its performance and how these are likely to be overcome. The cell was developed under funding from industry jointly with the Technology Strategy Board in the period 2005 - 2009.

"Can Nanoparticles Fix the P Problem?"
Dr Bruce Jefferson, Cranfield University
Dr Jefferson presented work on the fate of nanoparticles in sewage, with special emphasis on the relatively recent problem of excess phosphorus from agricultural fertilisers. He presented work on using a nanoparticle developed originally to absorb arsenic as a possible solution.

"Nanocomposite Devices for WWT and Industrial Effluents"
Prof Andy Cundy, University of Brighton
This presentation outlined recent research carried out at the University of Brighton, with European academic and industrial partners, aimed at developing flexible, low-cost and non-toxic nanocomposite devices for waste water and industrial effluent treatment. Prototype devices based on carbon, silver, gold and iron nanoparticles incorporated into stable polymer, silica and carbon-based "scaffolds" show considerable utility in the rapid removal of a range of problem contaminants from water and effluent streams, including mercury, arsenic, chromium and trace organic contaminants such as estrogens, atrazine, and malathion. Alternatively, the devices can be used for general, non-selective contaminant screening purposes or for potential recycling of valuable trace waste components.

"Iron based nano particles and nano-composites for removal of hazardoussubstances from ground- and waste water (»Fe-NANOSIT«)"
Damian Lippok, proaqua
This presentation gave an introduction to the Fe-NANOSIT technology and presented its commercial potential, the state of development and possible environmental impact. The project FE-NANOSIT is focused on development of an energy and resource efficient treatment technology for waste water and contaminated ground water. This involves the use of highly reactive nano materials and nano-scaled catalysts, to make use of the high potential of nanotechnology in water treatment. Compared to conventional methods of waste water treatment, the use of nano catalysts brings the advantage of highly efficient treatment which makes better use of chemicals and increased reaction speed, thus cutting investment and operating costs of waste water treatment plants.

"Use of Low Cost Nano-structured Porous Filters for Water Treatment
Applications"
Tom Scott, University of Bristol
This presentation provided an insight into the development of nano-iron technology for both in-situ and ex-situ applications and with specific focus on recent work at the University of Bristol relating to the development of porous nano-iron filters suitable for inline water treatment systems. It showed evidence that whilst nano-iron can be highly effective for the removal of many heavy metals and radionuclides from synthetic water systems, in an environmental setting the efficacy of contaminant removal is reduced with accompanying limited long term contaminant immobilization. Consequently, it emphasised a need to consider alternative methods, of deploying nano-iron for water treatment.

Nanotechnology for Water Survey Outcomes
Delegates at the event took part in a survey, aimed at determining the obstacles and challenges faced by those in the industry. The barriers to the UK achieving the lead role in commercialising these technologies were highlighted. Many felt that UK legislation and regulation is holding back the development of nanomaterials for use in water treatment and that the approvals and verification process is very expensive and not transferable across Europe. Individual approvals necessary for each EU country currently slow down technology acceptance as water companies are reluctant to adopt innovative solutions and treatment methods before they have been fully accepted / proved in other industries and countries.

Uncertainty over nanotechnology regulation can lead to a restriction of nanotechnology applications but those in the industry believe whilst legislation is good and necessary, it needs to adapt to times. There is a clear need for an environment that supports pilot scale trials of ideas/technologies with full support from regulators and funding.

The lack of funding for demonstration projects in the UK was also emphasised as a problem. It was considered that there is too much emphasis on financial services and not enough on innovative research. Funding for basic research, and applied study for assessment of nanomaterials, has a lower level of support compared to other countries such as Japan, USA and China.

With the industry not willing to pay for new technology within the regulatory framework in which they operate, it is causing problems. Water companies are not incentivised to support innovation prototyping and there is a lack of integrated development - manufacture. Some felt that industry is not fully engaging to develop solutions using new technology (i.e. taking lab to full scale). To see commercialisation, it is crucial that legislators and industry need to be educated in new technology.


Conclusions
Public perception of nanotechnology and the need to educate the public on the benefits it provides is obviously important. The perception that nanotechnology associated with water has health implications, such as leakage of the nanostructure/nanoparticles, no matter how unlikely, needs to be addressed if nanotechnology is to be commercialised. Legislators have a very important role to play in stimulating innovation and there is an urgent need to engage with regulators, industry and the general public, making sure they understand the full benefits of the technology

It was considered that nanotechnology will have a positive impact on water industries in certain areas, particularly with regards to energy savings. Some of the key innovation opportunities for nanotechnology in water include the development of porous filters that incorporate nanostructured materials, nano scale filtration membranes, pollution sensors and improvements for energy efficiency.

This EcoNano event covered a huge variety of different areas and enabled many industry professionals and academic institutions to network, creating links in the supply chain and generating new discussions surrounding nanotechnology for water.

By bringing together people at events like these, the NanoKTN aims to find solutions to issues faced by the market, in order to forge a competitive industry in the UK. By uniting those who work within this developing industry, the NanoKTN wants to develop programmes to advance R&D and identify gaps in the UK supply chain. Events like this are essential to enable those working within industry to openly promote and exchange ideas on the future development of nanotechnology in this area, to ensure that the UK continues to be at the forefront of nanotechnology innovation.
To stay up-to-date with group developments and events in this area and to read presentations in full, please visit www.nanoktn.com or email enquiries to .

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